Monday 24 April 2017

Melbourne Victory v Queensland Roar

After five drawn games, Melbourne Victory finally got its first win of the season by two goals to nil against Queensland Roar at Telstra Dome last night in front of 25,622 fans.

In a dire first half punctuated by mistakes from both sides, with Victory particularly unable to keep possession of the ball, neither team could score.

Most of Victory’s forward moves were high lobs pumped towards Socceroo defender Craig Moore, probably the best header of a ball in the League, so he and fellow defender Josh McCloughlan strolled through the game.

Queensland had more possession and threatened from free kicks by Matt McKay and Brazilian Marchinho, yet the Victory came closest to scoring.

It was half an hour before the Victory mounted a serious attack when a diagonal ball was hammered back across goal by Brazilian Leandro Love and Daniel Allsopp drove narrowly past the post.

Just before the interval Archie Thompson got away from the chasing defenders and set up Love whose shot flew across the face of goal.

Meanwhile former Socceroo Danny Tiatto had brought down Thompson and was very lucky to escape with only a yellow card.

The second half improved marginally but gradually the home team began to see more of the ball.

Archie Thompson hit the bar with a fierce drive and Leandro Love was tripped by Sasa Ognenovski as he prepared to drive home the rebound.

Skipper Kevin Muscat did his usual immaculate job with the penalty kick in the 68th minute.

At the other end in a similar situation substitute Michael Zullo hit the foot of Michael Theoklitos’s post but put the rebound wide.

In 86 minutes Thompson made the win secure when Love lifted the ball over Craig Moore and the Socceroo striker beat Liam Reddy at his near post.

Queensland had chances to win the game, notably when Craig Moore headed past the keeper but Rodrigo Vargas cleared from right under the cross-bar and in a couple of late scrambles, Victory just managed to prevent the visitor from getting some reward for its efforts.

At the press conference afterwards I asked about the plethora of long high balls to the Queensland defence, but coach Ernie Merrick said I must have been watching a different game.

Craig Moore raised the issue of players thinking quicker about what they intended to do with the ball, as the area in which Australians must improve in international comparison.

I argued that the fast one-touch game favoured by British teams required this, but that there was a lack of players who could put their foot on the ball and/or take men on, but he said good players like Kevin Muscat always had time to do what they planned.

Danny Tiatto was not seen as malicious by either team-mates or by opponents, but he still was a lucky boy on the day.

Michael Theoklitos, played and did very well, though his mother died the day before the game.

Like Allsopp, Muscat and Piorkowski, whose shoulder was dislocated during the game and had to be put back in by the physio, he showed a particular brand of courage in this game.

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